The South Pacific conjures up images—dreams, really—of deserted sandbars and pampering resorts. You’ll relax on white-sand beaches, go swimming in the bath-like water, and sip fruity drinks with little umbrellas. The island you’re heading toward has none of this, though. No beaches, no calm water, and certainly no coddling. But it is in the South Pacific.
Pitcairn Island is the most remote island in the South Pacific. It was settled by deserters of the British Royal Navy—and the Tahitians who accompanied them—in 1790. They burned and sank their ship, the Bounty, and lived in solitude for 24 years, before the British found them. The island, as well as the three other uninhabited islands that make up the Pitcairn Islands, are now British dependencies.
There isn’t an airport on Pitcairn Island, so you flew to the Gambier Islands and boarded a boat. Approaching the volcanic island, you see a rocky shoreline and steep green hills. A small landing sits in Bounty Bay. The Bounty wreck is visible underneath the choppy water; scuba divers are strapping on their tanks to descend again. A three-wheeled motorbike takes you up the Hill of Difficulty, the island’s only paved road, to Adamstown. The only town is home to everyone who lives on the island (less than 50 people), a general store, and an Adventist church.
Visit the Pitcairn Island Museum, which houses artifacts and a cannon from the Bounty. The ship’s anchor sits outside the Public Hall. See the gravesite of John Adams, the last-surviving member of the Bounty crew. Hike west, by the school and up a rocky slope, to Fletcher Christian’s Cave, where the ship’s commander would watch for other approaching ships. You have a great view of Adamstown from here. Follow the signs to Tedside, on the northwestern coast, to see volcanic rock formations and the blow hole. Try to find Mrs. Turpin while you’re here. The Galápagos tortoise was left on the island in the 20th century.
Then climb Garnet’s Ridge for panoramic views of the north and west sides of the island, as well Highest Point, the—yup, you guessed it—highest point on Pitcairn Island. Heading south, you reach Down Rope, a cliff with ancient Polynesian petroglyphs. Discover Gudgeon, a sea-level cave with a hidden, little sandy beach. Or if the water is calm, go to St. Paul’s Pool, a tidal pool where you can swim, since the rough ocean isn’t safe.
Back in Adamstown, buy woven baskets, fresh honey, and Pitcairn Islands’ stamps. Play tennis on one of the island’s few flat areas. Eat fried nanwi (bluefish), pilhi (puréed fruit baked into a custard), and arrowroots at Christian’s Café. Your well-deserved New Zealand beer wouldn’t have been available a few years ago, since alcohol was prohibited on the island until 1991. And make plans to visit one of the other islands. Henderson Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that protects endangered birds. Oeno Island has those deserted beaches about which you dreamed. While more than 90 percent of the world’s population of Murphy’s petrels live on Ducie Island. Unbelievably, the islands are even more remote than where you are now.